Tuesday, November 22, 2011: 03:27:50 PM

Food Processing Trend

Fermentation: a crucial process in food production

With food processing emerging as an important sector, the role of fermentation gains more importance than ever

In spite of being one of the oldest techniques used in food processing, fermentation continues to be a crucial part of food manufacturing. Derived from the Latin verb ‘fervere’ which means to boil, fermentation has evolved with time and advent of new technology.

 
In food technology terms fermentation can be defined as a process of growing a culture of micro-organisms in a nutrient medium at a controlled and specific physical and chemical environment. The objective is to convert the feed into the desired end product.
 
The process of fermentation helps breakdown complex substances into simpler ones and is a part of the making of several food items that are a part of our daily diet. Fermentation also finds a place in simple home food and is a part of several Indian cuisines. Considering that curd is fermented milk, the fermentation process in ingrained in Indian cuisine for ages. In this case yeast is used for facilitating the fermentation.
 
According to Dr VH Potty, food technologist and chairman of Diversified Food Technologies (Mysore), “Conversion of milk to yogurt involving Lactic acid bacteria (LAB) was known to our ancestors and lactic fermentation is used extensively to manufacture a wide variety of dairy based processed products. Ripening of cheese by a variety of microbes achieves distinct flavour liked by many consumers.”
 
An important process in food production
 
The advantages of fermentation of food include:
 
  • Adds value and variety to diet
  • Preserves food
  • Improvement in quality due to development of flavours and nutrient enrichment
  • Detoxification of food
 
Food expert and homemaker Dipali Basu shares, “Fermentation is a very important process and one must have the basic idea about the food’s shelf life. There are high chances of spoiling the food if one does not know the optimum temperature. The techniques and time required for fermentation of food items like milk vary in summers and winters.”
 
Wine and cheese
 
In food technology, fermentation is an indispensable part of manufacturing which can determine the flavours, texture and appearance of a product. Controlled fermentation can also enhance shelf life of food and the manufacture of cheese and its variants is one of the best examples to understand the role of fermentation. Depending on the heating, the starter culture and the temperature of processing, the taste of the cheese can vary great lengths. The ageing of the cheese under controlled conditions also has a significant effect on the final product.
 
The production of alcohol is also through the fermentation process. Each variety of liquor has its unique fermentation process, which can greatly impact its taste and flavour. While beer may take lesser time to brew, Scotch whisky may take a decade before being ready for consumption. Though, the process of ageing maybe slightly different from that of fermentation, the latter determines the quality and worthiness of the alcohol, during the initial stage of production.
 
Apart from food technology, fermentation has found tremendous uses in chemistry where large numbers of substances are derived with the help of fermentation.
 
Tias Chakraborty

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